I remember visiting my aunt in her apartment years ago. It had huge high ceilings and windows that seemed to stretch upwards forever. Her apartment was in Manhattan and even though outside it was a strange land full concrete, steel and glass, inside it reminded me more of a rainforest. Plants hung from the ceiling and sprang upwards from pots on floors and window sills. Or at least that’s what it seemed like to me at the time. It was a bit different in our house growing up. Granny is not the most green fingered among us and she will be the first to admit it. The gardening was my dad’s thing. Any plants indoors had to be hardwearing and survive weeks of neglect. My track record is a bit hit or miss with indoor plants. Mini roses never seem to last long. Indoor gerber daisies tend to bounce back quite well but lets face it, they can be quite dramatic in telling you that you haven’t watered them in a week. Moth orchids surprise all of us but doing quite well. Or at least my one specimen has done quite well. When it arrived as a house warming present, Mr. Fairweather gave me a few weeks to kill it; couple of months tops. Three years later it is flourishing with careful neglect.
Neglect is a skill not to be knocked. I have been tackling my tunnel bit by bit and been pleasantly surprised. The usual herbs are thriving. My rosemary and oregano are huge. Lots of dust and cobwebs on them but sure that’ll wash off. My mystery courgettes that I plant swapped for and planted inside have produced small, bright yellow fruits that look beautiful under the dusty leaves. The volunteer tomatoes generously donated their fruit to my latest chutney making session. But it’s the aubergines that surprised me the most. These are the biggest fruits I have ever managed to get off of a plant before. There is certainly hope yet.
Now careful neglect sadly doesn’t float too well with other plants. And I have had a learning curve which some might suggest that if I simply read up a bit, I would have saved myself the bother. How and ever, I feel that practical mistakes help me learn faster than simply reading instructions. Coriander needs water and not so much heat. And the worms did not survive the soaring temperatures in the polytunnel. While it may have been great to have them there in the winter, I really should have moved them out in the summer. The Little Paddler keeps insisting on going over to check for them and is constantly disappointed. I’ll order some more and am sure she will get a real kick out of watching me open up the packet and dump them in. Not so sure how the postman will feel about delivering a bag of worms though…..
The bees too have suffered severe set backs this summer. One hive died out. No disease. Just died out. Possibly they were weak after the winter and their neighbours invaded and robbed their stores. And my new hive which had been placed temporarily on a wooden crate while I tried to get a proper stand for it, got forgotten about. Then when I remembered, I found I couldn’t get to it for thistles and nettles and general lack of motivation – the real saboteur in my efforts to be a smallholder. By the time Mr. Fairweather found the time to strim me a path, the crate had collapsed and the bees had cleared off. All I found were mouldy frames and slugs. I shouldn’t be let keep bees really. Once again I tell myself that next year I will be better. Even I am starting not to believe myself now.